Len Makinen tells the story of his family roots; of how his grandparents emigrated from Finland in 1920 and settled in America. In middle age Len suddenly becomes interested in his family history and the unknown relatives who live in Finland. He re-establishes contact and eventually travels to Finland to meet them, to see the village that his grandparents left and the land they worked on, to discover what his life would have been if he´d been born a Finn. In The Finn´s Tale, Len recounts his experiences on that trip and what it taught him about himself, but The Finn´s Tale is not Len´s story: it´s the story of the second cousin, Päivi, who he meets there … and of much else besides.
This is the first paragraph of the story:
Right from the start,
surprised me. When I arrived in Finland Helsinki the temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit and it was one of the warmest places in Europe. For that day, at least. It didn´t stay that way the whole summer. Coming out of airport the heat was noticeable and I felt overdressed in a sweater and jacket. I´ll admit to having been thrown a little off balance right at the beginning of my Finnish experience. I had always thought of myself as partly Finnish, which I am; my grandparents on my father´s side emigrated from Helsinki Finland to in 1920. And although, at the age of forty-four, this was my first-ever visit, I´d always thought of Finnishness as something I could take for granted in my idea of myself. And now here I was, being caught out by the weather, just like all the other tourists. It´s true, though, that Finnishness had played a negligible part in my upbringing. In a way, it had been conspicuous by its absence, but that absence was always present, if you take my meaning. I felt it was there as a kind of backdrop against which all the immediate experiences of everyday life took place. America